Cleft Palate Surgery & Pediatric Craniofacial Services
Craniofacial services are specialized health care services for infants, children, and adolescents with craniofacial anomalies.
We treat children of all ages with a wide range of conditions, including cleft lip, cleft palate, microtia, craniofacial microsomia, and skull malformations including craniosynostosis. Because of the complexity of many of these conditions, patients are evaluated and treated by a multispecialty team of experts.
Accredited Craniofacial Center
Multidisciplinary Approach for Various Craniofacial Conditions
We provide surgical reconstruction and medical care for children who have a medical condition affecting the head or face. Our multidisciplinary care team works together with each family to determine the most effective treatment plan for their child’s needs. Conditions we treat and services we provide include:
- Cleft lip and/or palate: Opening in the upper lip and/or the roof of the mouth
- Nasal alveolar molding (NAM)
- Pierre Robin Sequence
- Treacher Collins Syndrome
- Craniofacial Microsomia
- Microtia: Partial or total absence of the ear
- Craniosynostosis: A type of premature fusing of the skull that inhibits normal growth and development
- Craniosynostosis syndromes: Including Crouzon, Apert, and Pfeiffer Syndrome
What to Expect at Your Initial Team Visit
During your initial team visit, you will be meeting with several dedicated specialists. Our Craniofacial Nurse Coordinator will reach out to you prior to your visit to let you know what to expect, get some initial information, and make your visit more efficient. Because you will be seeing multiple specialists throughout the day, your initial visit will likely take approximately three hours. We want to avoid unnecessary delays or repetition, so don’t forget to bring all of your child’s medical records, including the names of all individuals involved in your child’s health care and all medical reports, x-rays, and CT scans or MRIs.
After your visit, all the specialists will meet in a care conference. This allows for coordination of care and development of an individualized treatment plan. A report with the team’s recommendations is drafted and sent to you as well as your pediatrician.
While you may see some of the individual specialists more frequently depending on your child’s needs, most families usually return for a full team evaluation every one to two years. If you are traveling a long distance and need overnight accommodations, our program coordinator will work with our social worker to help you find options.
What is Cleft Palette Surgery?
Cleft palate surgery, also known as palatoplasty, is a type of reconstructive surgery in pediatrics that repairs and rebuilds the structures of the mouth and throat.
The most common form of cleft palate surgery is a single-stage procedure that involves closing the cleft with sutures or surgical staples.
This procedure can be done in one or two stages, depending on the severity of the cleft.
Additional surgeries may be required to improve function and appearance.
What Causes the Need for Palate Surgery?
Clefts are open spaces in the roof of the mouth, which can cause problems with speech and eating, as well as an increased risk of ear infections. Without treatment, these issues can lead to serious health problems in the future.
What Happens During Cleft Palate Surgery?
Cleft palate surgery is performed under general anesthesia for the comfort and safety of the patient.
During the surgery, a surgeon will repair both sides of the hard and soft palate, which are the roof and sides of the mouth.
The surgeon will suture or staple the cleft together and then reshape the tissue to match the surrounding area.
Cartilage from another part of the body may be used to reconstruct parts of the palate that have been damaged by the cleft.
Cleft palate surgery is sometimes combined with other procedures to improve the appearance of the face and mouth, including:
- Rhinoplasty (nose reshaping)
- Orthognathic surgery (jawbone realignment)
- Otoplasty (ear shaping)
Signs & Symptoms
Cleft palate surgery is performed on infants as early as four months of age.
Signs and symptoms that may indicate the need for cleft palate surgery include:
- Difficulty feeding (especially with a bottle)
- Difficulty breathing while eating
- Frequent ear infections or fluid draining from the ears
- Speech delays due to improper formation of sounds
Get your infant evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible to determine if cleft plate surgery is possible.
Clef Palate & Craniofacial Resources
Craniofacial Association is an international non-profit medical society of health care professionals who treat and/or perform research on birth defects of the head and face. Click the links below for additional information.
Any Baby Can is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing supportive services for the families of children with special health needs ages 12 and under. They have case management services, parent trainings, sibling support groups, prescription assistance and even a fitness program for children with special developmental needs. Click here for additional information.
Christian Assistance Ministries is an agency that helps to meet the basic needs of families in crisis in San Antonio. They can assist with utility bills, provide food for families and offer counseling services, among other things. You can call or go directly to their office to request support. Click here to learn more.
The Cleft Palate Foundation’s mission is to serve individuals and families affected by cleft lip/palate and other craniofacial conditions by connecting them to team care, providing education, and offering personal support. Click the links below for additional information.
- Website offered in Spanish
- Publications and resources for both parents and children
- Videos about how to properly feed cleft babiesChildren’s books
- Information on camps and retreats
- Letter to teacher
Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) is a nationwide program available to infants and toddlers, ages 3 years (36 months) and younger who need extra help with their development. Click here for additional information.
The Children’s Craniofacial Association aims to empower and give hope to individuals affected by facial differences by addressing the medical, financial, psychosocial, emotional, and educational concerns relating to craniofacial conditions. Click here for additional information.
- Information on syndromes
- Support groups for all ages
- Easter Seals
- The National Craniofacial Association
- The National Craniofacial Association dedicated to assisting children and adults who have craniofacial disorders resulting from disease, accident, or birth. Click here for more information.
Book to help parents better deal with children with facial differences
- Children with Facial Difference: A Parent's Guide. Written by Hope Charkins, MSW. Published by Woodbine House, 1996.
- Information about transportation and over night accommodations to and from treatments
Ragan’s Hope is a Dallas-based non-profit organization started by the mother of a little girl with chronic medical needs. The agency works with families across Texas to provide support, encouragement through cards and letters, assistance with basic needs, meals when a child is hospitalized and a general network of caring through local volunteers. Click here for more information.
San Antonio Food Bank helps to meet the needs of families across San Antonio and South Texas. They have case management services to assist children and adults in applying for Medicaid, CHIP, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits (formerly food stamps) and other programs. Click here for additional information.
United Healthcare Children’s Foundation offers grants for children with special medical needs who have private insurance and do not have any other form of insurance. They can assist with the cost of co-pays, co-insurance and other out-of-pocket expenses. Click here to learn more.
Variety of Texas is an agency based in Dallas that aims to help the families of children with special medical needs who are privately insured. They provide grants that can help to fund medical equipment, supplies or formula that insurance may not cover. Click here for more information.